(WTAJ) — Drivers across Pennsylvania will be hitting the road this summer as they travel for vacations, outings, or simply to enjoy the warm weather. However, the summer months are also expected to bring various construction and improvement projects on area roadways.
While some groan at the sight of orange construction cones and jokingly say the “state flower is in bloom,” PennDOT says work zones are something everyone should take seriously. Construction workers are too often put in dangerous situations as drivers fail to abide by the work zones’ reduced speed limits and lane restrictions.
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1,412 work zone crashes occurred in 2020 that resulted in 15 deaths, according to PennDOT. The department of transportation has reportedly lost 90 workers in the line of duty since 1970. The PA Turnpike has lost 45 workers since 1940.
Over 50 years later, laws have been established to help prevent such tragedies and offer serious penalties for those who violate them. Here is important information and helpful advice drivers should know if they encounter a work zone during their travels.
All drivers are required to turn their vehicle’s headlights on while driving through all work zones regardless of whether the zone is currently active. Most importantly, drivers must travel through the work zone at the designated speed limit.
Pennsylvania’s Move Over Law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching an emergency response area. The revamped law also mandates drivers change lanes or slow down when approaching disabled vehicles when at least two emergency displays, such as vehicle hazard lights, road flares, cones or caution signs are present.
In March 2020, Pennsylvania implemented the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement (AWSZE) program which uses vehicle-mounted systems to detect and record drivers that exceed posted work zone speed limits by 11 miles per hour or more. The electronic speed timing devices are used in active work zones where workers are present.
Additionally, where work zones have a project cost of over $300,000, speed-monitoring devices will be put in place.
PennDOT warns drivers that any fines or penalties such as speeding, driving under the influence or failure to obey traffic devices are doubled if they take place in an active work zone. Therefore, anyone who is caught driving 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limit or involved in a crash due to excessive speed will automatically lose their license for 15 days.
Drivers could also face thousands of dollars in fines for causing any amount of bodily injury and up to five years in jail if convicted of homicide by vehicle that occurred in a work zone.
The Move Over Law now includes a new point system for violators and sets a fine of $500 for first-time offenders, $1,000 for a second offense and $2,000 plus 90-day license suspension for a third or subsequent offense.
Fines are also given to any driver who is caught speeding by an AWZSE system. These violations are sent by mail and could cost upwards of $150 for a third straight offense. However, no points are placed on the drivers’ license or have any impact on insurance.
Drivers should always keep safety in mind while driving through a work zone. This includes driving the posted speed limit, staying alert, and following signs and flaggers. Speeds are always lowered in a work zone.
Flaggers are usually in the middle of the roadway or alongside controlling the flow of traffic. Slow down and wait for their signal to go and proceed with caution.
Most crashes that occur in work zones are rear-ended collisions, according to PennDOT. Drivers should maintain a safe distance by doubling the space between vehicles and never tailgate. Avoiding distractions like mobile devices can also help prevent crashes.
Aside from turning a vehicle’s headlights on, drivers should also turn on their vehicles four-way flashers if they are forced to stop or are driving slowly through a work zone.
PennDOT advises drivers to expect the unexpected and always remain calm and patient. Crews and moving equipment are everywhere. While they are trained to be alert, drivers should continuously be aware of their surroundings and the possibility that anything could be in their path at any given time.
Alternate routes around the work zone are also encouraged for those wanting to avoid any travel delays.